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Cancer Treatment and Dry Mouth

Cancer Treatment and Dry Mouth

Side effects and symptom management can utilize a number of different treatments, but you can think about them as being comprised of four main areas: physical, emotional, practical and spiritual. This article will focus on the physical symptom management of Xerostomia, or Dry Mouth.

A mild dry mouth is a feeling that everyone has had at one time or another, but when it becomes a constant presence, it's something that must be treated. In some instances a dry mouth, as a side effect of cancer treatment, can become so bad that patients have reported high amounts of pain in their mouth after a long, restless night, where no matter what they do to get some relief, the sensation of dryness will simply not go away.

What are the symptoms of Dry Mouth? In most cases the answer is quite simple and straightforward; in most cases, Dry Mouth is caused by a lack of saliva, which can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • a sticky feeling in your mouth,
  • difficulty swallowing or chewing, and
  • having a hard time talking.

In many cases it can also lead to:

  • a painful burning sensation all the way from your teeth to your throat, and
  • the loss of your sense of taste, making your food unsavory and difficult to eat.

If the condition persists, it will cause your dental health to degrade as one of saliva's main functions is to wash away bacteria which cause cavities and gingivitis. Having too little saliva to wash away bacteria may lead to bad breath and plaque buildup.

This condition is exacerbated in cancer patients because chemotherapy or radiation treatments can damage or, in some cases, destroy the salivary glands, resulting in a lower production of moisturizing saliva and causing Dry Mouth. In some cases, this condition is only temporary and will disappear after about 8 weeks once treatment has been completed and the salivary glands have had a chance to regenerate and start working properly once again.

In the meantime, there are a few options to treat Dry Mouth, including:

  • Increasing your fluid intake to help bring temporary relief to your Dry Mouth, although this may take some time and can be ineffective.
  • Brushing your teeth regularly and using mouthwash can also help relieve Dry Mouth which also helps maintain good oral health (some report mint-flavored toothpaste as being more effective than non-mint-flavored toothpaste).

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